Dogs Reign Supreme for Childless Japanese

Illustration for article titled Dogs Reign Supreme for Childless Japanese

This Guardian piece on why Japan prefers pets to parenthood is filled with outrageous examples of the ways people pamper their pets — sunglasses and tiny shoes, bedazzled buggies, organic doggie treats — but, underneath the bling, it's an interesting (and slightly sad) story about the country's plummeting birthrate.


It makes a lot of sense that Japanese people would rather have pets than children; the country isn't only dealing with the same economic crisis as the rest of us, but the aftermath of an earthquake and nuclear disasters as well. Why take the risk? For example, Jiro Akiba and his wife decided to have a dog instead of a baby because his wife didn't want to stop working. "In Japanese society, it's really hard for women to have a baby and keep a job … so my girlfriend decided against having a baby, and that's why we have a dog instead," he told the Guardian, adding that it makes sense given the high cost of living and the poor job market.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with choosing to care for a pet instead of a child. But the people the Guardian interviewed all seem to wish they had kids instead. Akiba and his wife named their dog "first-born son" in Japanese, and one guy dressed his dog up in a white hoodie and jeans so his dog would look "cute, cool and tough" — and attract the ladies. So far, it hasn't worked. "I wish I could meet someone [to share my life with]," he said.


The government is concerned because the average fertility rate is now 1.39 children per woman, which is "well below" the number needed to keep the population stable: if things don't change, Japan's current population of 128 million will fall to 43 million over the next 100 years. It seems doubtful anyone will be inspired to procreate for patriotic reasons, especially when there are puppies to dress up in designer jeans.

Why Japan prefers pets to parenthood [Guardian]

Image via Lobke Peers/Shutterstock.

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Kat Callahan

Japan wants to "internationalise" on its own terms, as such, compared to other developed nations, it isn't willing (although, I would argue it is able) to make up the difference with immigration. The United States is near zero population growth (small increase) because while Caucasian births decline, minority immigration and minority births are in the increase. Europe is experiencing the same trend on a smaller scale, as Western European births decline, and slavic and middle eastern births and immigration increase.

As it is, Japan is now at about 4% non-Japanese (at least one parent) births and this is on the increase. Immigration to Japan is happening, yet those of us who have immigrated are often not counted in official tallies, even those of us with long term residency or permanent residency. Often only citizens are counted, which does not reflect the true population. Many of these non-Japanese children have parents who pay taxes and full time jobs, and the children themselves attend Japanese schools and have access to Japanese social services. There are "special permanent residents" of Korean and Chinese descent who have lived in Japan their entire lives and may be third or fourth generation, yet they do not hold citizenship, and may not be counted in population tallies.

Bottom line, Japan is an immigrant country. It doesn't think it is, but it is. I give it twenty years before the Japanese government wakes up and realises "Foreigners, foreigners everywhere!" And we'll be like 20% of the population or more. The estimates of Japanese population decline relies on the idea of the decline of ethnic Japanese without including the increase of non-ethnic Japanese (citizens or permanent residents). This is majorly flawed.